tv Earth in Human Hands CSPAN July 3, 2017 6:30pm-8:02pm EDT
going to write a book so i wrote a book and it's called the common of the common so that's the other book. >> good evening. i am barbara stauffer chief of community programs here at the museum and it's my pleasure to welcome you to an evening with david grinspoon. here at the national history museum through research exhibition programs and on line resources we help promote understanding of the natural world and our place ahead and we
inspire dialogue around the important scientific issues of our time. tonight's program is one of our after-hours offerings. these include film screenings, lectures conversations like tonight and. our evening literary service features leading researchers and thinkers in conversation with the museum director and paleontologist kirk johnson. many of you have already joined us for these engaging conversations between kirk and speakers or guests like evolutionary biologist ian wilson journalist ed young, science exchange director ann merchant, philanthropist david rubenstein and most recently president of the university of maryland baltimore college friedman lebowski. our final evening program of the season will take place later this spring and will feature florence williams as she explores the science of off and
the important role that nature plays in our everyday life. at this point i would like to thank david grinspoon not only for participating the series but for making the series possible. thanks to his generous gifts we are able to hold tonight's conversation and continue our public and engages in programming. before we get started i would like to take a moment to encourage you to complete and turn in your surveys. we learned a lot from your input and we use the information to develop our programming so thank you in advance. also please remember to turn off cell phones. now i would like to introduce our guests dr. david grinspoon today that is an honest-to-goodness astrobiologists, an award-winning science communicator and a prize-winning author. his latest book. >> we are are leaving this event for live coverage of the u.s. senate for a brief pro forma session.
>> the senate will come to order. the clerk will read a communication of the senate washington d.c. july 3, 2017 to the senate. under the provisions of her one paragraph 3 standing rules of the senate i hereby impart the honorable marco rubio senator from the state of florida to perform the duties of the chair signed orangey hatch president pro tempore. under the previous order the senate stands adjourned until 9:00 a.m. on thursday, july 6, 2017. >> the senate will be back for legislative business a week from today live of 4:00 p.m. interest to confirm naomi row two run the office of very literary affairs scheduled for that champagne is always watch the senate life here on c-span2. after biologist and author david grinspoon reports on the anthropocene things of the ers history impacting humans will have and have had on the planet. >> for a couple of decades and whose work i have long admired.
what i want to do now for the next how -- half hours till you a little bit about what's in my new book "earth in human hands," why i wrote it and lead you through some of the ideas and then i will stop and we will talk and then we will hopefully hear what you guys have to say. so why would an astrobiologists write a book about humans on earth? after all we are people that study the possibility of life elsewhere. well, i do feel that this perspective, my day job as a planetary scientist, someone who models the evolution of other planets in comparison to earth's and thinks about habitability of other environments and how planets gain and lose habitable conditions i do feel that gives me a slightly different
perspective on earth and even on the human presence on earth that i decided was worth trying to put down in some pages. i want to read you a little bit from the very beginning of the book where he tried to address this question of why astrobiology is relevant. first, i want to also start off with this quotation from dr. martin luther king that i just love where dr. king says if we are to have peace on earth, which i also take to mean to build a sustainable civilization our loyalty must become, must transcend our differences and we must develop a world perspective i feel that one of the messages i try to get across in this book
is that if we really look at ourselves on the sleep through the lens of science can give us and see where and who and what we are on this planet with the multigenerational and global perspective that planetary science naturally leads us to, then that knowledge does lead us towards developing a world perspective, so that is one of the things, which of you do read the book i hope you'll take away. why would an astrobiologists write about humans on earth? i will read you just a little bit from the intro of "earth in human hands." gazing over the complex fluctuations and transformations and earth multibillion.year history i'm struck by the unique strangers and as the present moment. suddenly find ourselves sort of running a planet a role we never anticipated or socks.
without knowing how it should be done where at the control but we are not in control. this book is my view of how we got into this situation and where leaves us now. we are witnessing and manifesting something unprecedented and completely unpredictable, the advent of self-aware geological change. as an astrobiologists i studied evolutionary relationships between life and the planets that may host it. i see the anthropocene is a tricky new step in the long intricate dance between earth and its biosphere that has been going on for 4 billion years. there are those who object to this name anthropocene is being too self-aggrandizing and serving eight destructive human centered viewpoint but this is well named because it represents a recognizable turning point in geological history brought about by one species, and throw.
and are growing at knowledge meant can be a turning point in our ability to respond to the changes we have set in motion. i believe that more than extreme and undeniable physical changes to the planet being caused by human influence it is this dawning self recognition that is really fundamentally different and ultimately promising about the anthropocene. many species have changed the planet for the benefit or detriment of others but there has never before been geological force aware of its own influence and i have another snippet here about the planetary perspective. a planetary perspective allows us to step away from the noise of the immediate presence to see ourselves from a distance and time-lapse. when we do what we see is not just a problem facing our civilization but an entire letter new evolutionary stage of
the development of life in seeing ourselves as a geological process we also see the planet entering a phase where cognitive processes are becoming a major agent of global change. earth's biosphere gave ers to these -- birth to these thought processes which are now reshaping its changing planetary cycle. a planet with brains? not only brings that lambs with which to manipulate and build tools. we are just beginning to come to grips with the strange new development like an infant staring at his hands. we are becoming aware of our powers of better yet my gaining control over them. the planetary perspective provides us with the kind of out of body experience covering in orbit and watching ourselves sleepwalking through a slow
disaster of our own making. now, can this experience help us to shake ourselves awake? for virtually all of its history earth has evolved without us and we have always seen ourselves as autonomous actors on a path of planetary backdrop but now we are beginning to see that our futures, those of humanity and the planet earth, are tightly conjoined. if human civilization is to persist and drive we will need a completely new and different view of our planet and of ourselves. in which we'd knowledge both are deep dependence and their increasing influence. we need visions of the future in which we have a creativity to the task of living on a finite world where we embrace our role, become comfortable and proficient as planet shapers and learn to use a technological skills to enhance the survival prospects not just in humanity but of all life on earth.
my name for this vision is terra sapient or wise earth. a recent scientific breakthrough the exoplanet revolution that we have long suspected now have confirmed this universe is long of planets orbiting nearly every star. it's closing conceivable that we could be the only life and technological intelligence in the universe. an interplanetary perspective on oeste limits inside is to wonder whether parallel dramas may have emboldened on distant worlds. two other planets also grow brains and causing themselves problems. two other species develop technology and build civilizations that create dangerous instabilities on their planets? how do they cope? to planetary biospheres become self-aware? >> anthropocene leads us to a
new way of looking at the thirst for extraterrestrial intelligence which in turn eliminates changing notions about ourselves, how we fit into our planet and what kind of future we dare imagine. 100 million years from now what will our time have been, i briefed climate spasm that earth shrugged off and largely forgot leading -- leaving a thin layer infused with bizarre plastic objects? or the beginning of a lasting new phase when the biosphere finally woke up and adjusted its grip on the planet. so that's all from the intro and hopefully gives you the perspective that i'm advancing, tempting to advance and then the first part of the book is called listening to the planets. i trace some of the history of this relatively recent ability
that earth has two central bits of itself back out into the universe from whence it all once came and explore. after 4.5 billion years of earth evolution one species involves this past drainage ability to start launching little bits of earth stuff circling the planet, observing ourselves and also visiting the neighbors and sending signals back. what if we learn from all back? what i focus on here is what we have learned about the earth from our explorations elsewhere that may be useful in our task to manage ourselves in a relationship with the planet. there are many insights that we have gained into earth, profound fundamental insights about how our planet works that have only come from examining other
planets, getting some perspective on what's going on here. by cs elliott said in that famous poem that i will mangle about at the end of oligarchs pouring we return to the place we started as if for the first time. i think cs said it slightly better than that but you get the idea. hey i met astrobiologist, not a public but there are many of these insights and i have a section in the book where i involve ideas about earth's geology in a way that surface relates to the current smoothing of the interior and how that is bound up with climate evolution through these great cycles of carbon and nitrogen and oxygen that unite the atmosphere to the surface in the interior of the planet and the role of the other
planets and the rest of the solar system and affect the nurse evolution both by impact on the fact that earth has been hit repeatedly like the famous asteroid and that hit dinosaurs 65 million years ago but many other events as well and the way in which our climate has been affected by the gravitational torquing from other planets in many of these connections between us and the rest of the solar system came out of this and large to view from interplanetary exploration. one of the most profound insights had to do with the role of life on earth. by comparing the earth to our apparently lifeless neighbors, venus and mars, we have gained an appreciation of the deep and profound extent to which earth has been transformed by life. early on in its history age of
these three planets went very kind of catastrophe, catastrophic change and it became an oven. mars became the freezer and earth came to life and completely transform not just in the obvious ways. the atmosphere strange compared to the other planets because of the oxygen and methane and so on but the composition of the ocean and even the interior of the earth we now believe over the long run is affected and maybe even controlled by life. in a really deep way it's hard to separate the living and nonliving parts of the earth and earth is in a sense a living world. earth went down a path, a junction that the other neighboring planets didn't take. we are still trying to figure out why completely although we
have some idea about earth went through branching point early on in its history and there's a planet, there's a chapter in the book about the profound role of life in determining the nature of our planet and in a way that's a bit of a setup for the next part of the book where i talk about human influence because i contend that we are at another branching point in planetary history. it may be as equally as profound as the origin of life wasn't transforming our planet, the origin of cognitive life or life that is influencing the planet through cognitive systems. so the next part of the book is where i sort of summarize human influence from the earth's point of view if you will end and this section is called monkey with the world. i want to read you a little bit
from the very beginning. this section, monkey with the world. it's called something new. it starts off of course with the grateful dead ." who can stop what must arrive now, something new is waiting to be born. have you noticed that something strange is happening to the earth? take a good long look at this world, dazzling blue orb spiraling in clouds spinning through darkness glinting and slowly brightening sun. winter bite pulsing between north and south as earth and bolster its orbit. now imagine you are very patient alien regarding earth over the eons. if you've been watching carefully for say the last several billion years you have
seen a lot happen. the brown drifting around the oceanic globe coalescing and breaking apart, animated pieces in a spherical puzzle. the polar caps growing and shrinking, advancing and retreating as climate rocks between the ice age and hot house. throughout all these changes the nightside remains a nearly unbroken black and the dayside continence arthus dark though gray of their rock. after 4 billion lonely years the green french first edges over the land and the night starts to sparkle with occasional forest fires. still for the longest time the omelette hemisphere remains as black as the starry space around it. the dark interrupted only by fleeting fires and occasional glass of -- flash of lightning or flora until very recently in the last few hundred years in
the life of the planet, whoa what is this? something new. suddenly the planet lights up in a peculiar spidering pattern that seems to reflect an organic process that something else as well, something cognitive. starting in a few isolated river valleys in coastal areas of glowing points appear abruptly dynamited stitching together and spreading a long brightening webs. eventually growing nodal patterns across the interiors of the land. on the dayside amash of dark lines becomes visible winding between these nightlights each surrounded by a growing grid of novel angular geometry. soon regular movements and small way of generating objectstore crossing the ocean and many clouds start streaking the skies. at the same time a host of other
accelerating changes are observable in the atlas air, the land, the oceans and the ice. finally just 60 years ago and interpol in this fast-forward view began the curious anti- secretion with small bits of earth stuff back into space little insectlike constructions of refined metal thrusters and radios start leaving back off the planet sailing first to the nearest world and those farther afield sending pictures and other information home to their inquisitive builders. signaling the arrival on earth of curiosity and gravity defying technology. yes after gravity finds technology, yes after billions of years of geology as usual something new and strange is definitely happening here.
what is the meaning of these new changes? and then i'll tell you, i make an attempt to characterize what's happening on earth now from our planet a logical point of view and one thing we learn when we do that if you study the long history of the earth is that earth has been through a lot of catastrophic changes. this is not the first catastrophe to the fall earth what's happening now and we are not the first life form, the first species to radically transform the planet. for instance these little guys the cyanobacteria about 2.5 billion years ago completely transform the planet and you know they may not look like planet wreckers but they are. these guys discovered a new energy source and an exploiting
bad energy source widely they polluted the entire atmosphere which a dangerous gas and they destroyed the climate led to mass extinction. they look innocent enough, don't they? but what they discovered was solar energy. they perfected photosynthesis and learned how to use solar energy to break apart carbon dioxide and water, spit out the oxygen and make organic stuff and in the process they polluted the planet with a dangerous gas 02. of course we love the oxygen. i know i do. good stuff, good stuff. but that's because we have evolved empower cells with these exothermic energy releasing actions that happen when a -- organic molecules made oxygen. when oxygen first appeared organic life was defenseless
against those reactions until we evolve the restoration. you have a power plant in every cell of your body that uses those reactions. that's how we live but when it first appeared not only was the poisonous but we think there was some methane greenhouse keeping the planet warm and the oxygen destroyer than let's are probably the greatest global nach and the planet has ever known where the planets became completely frozen over. these guys did a lot of damage but for me here the story of course we don't say oh those irresponsible siano bacteria. how could they? what were they thinking? because bacteria don't think. they're just bacteria. at the same time we are cso of behaving in a way that is perhaps analogous and those of us that are paying attention feel a great sense of responsibility about this and concern. what is the difference?
in an effort to probe that question a bit i looked at all the catastrophes that could befall planets and i've decided perhaps they fit into four categories for kinds of planetary change categorized with respect to the influence of life. what i call planetary changes are just the random things that happen, when bad things happen to good planets. a big first balkin-ism causes mass extinction. these are catastrophes where life had nothing to do with it. it was just in the wrong place at the right time and all planets in the universe to some degree will have this kind of catastrophe. they second biological catastrophe. i gave an example of the cyanobacteria, this is when some species or group of species are so successful at doing what they do, multiplying in living, that they change the global environment in such a way it leads to disaster for other
species. there are many examples of this in earth's history. what i call planetary changes of the third kind this is where the cognitive processes start to come into it. an inadvertent catastrophe. this is in a sense what we are finding ourselves doing to the planet now. we are causing inadvertent catastrophe because this is what happens when you have influence that extends beyond your awareness. i symbolize this with traffic because if you look at this, here you have the species is doing a great job of solving local survival problems but is not aware of the global effect on those global solutions. these people are just trying to drive home from work and each car driven by a person with agency come they can stay around obstacles and they can hit the brakes and it works really well but then you add the global transportation system, the whole
system and the answer is kind of nobody. so we are participating but we don't necessarily have a sense of agency or this is what i call the anthropocene dilemma. cognitively it's on the level of a child who is not yet developed situational awareness so they could or happens to themselves or their environment or other people harmed simply by not being aware of the extent of their influence and smashing into things. now i'm example, an obvious example of inadvertent catastrophe is the one we have heard a lot about, the fact that we are jacking up the carbon dioxide atmosphere with our internal combustion and other means of burning fossil fuels and the great animation showing where co2 comes from and where it's going and you have heard a lot about the rise of co2 over
the decades, rising about 30% over my lifetime, not a minor change in all the things that are happening as a result of that combat the alarming decrease in the arctic sea ice but i'm not going to dwell on that now because you know about this and it's something we can talk about. another example of inadvertent change is the ozone hole which we discovered in the 1970s. largely at first some of this at least in part because we were exploring the planet venus and we noticed there was some interaction happening with chlorine and oxygen compounds and some smart scientist said wait a minute i wonder if that could be happening and he realize the cmp's which we realize they are safe and non-toxic which they are down here where we live but we weren't clever enough to realize when it's in the stratosphere they do something else that they were starting to destroy the
ozone layer. fortunately we discovered it in time and this is kind of a success story because what happens there was a global conversation, it was an argument at first but it evolved to an agreement in treaty and this is a problem that is actually being fixed so i also used it as my first example of what i call planetary changes of the first -- fourth kind come intentional change. it loads shows a proof of contest that we have an ability to respond in a different way to acknowledge that global effect that we are having. not that it's going to be easy in every case and it backed their reasons why their other problems that are harder. it demonstrates something important, that there is another way that this kind of problem can be responded to by humanity. ..
descendents, and if we think on long time scale if, opposite we get over the current climate vandalism, then what are responsibilities? there are longer term threats we can see coming and if we can see them coming and have the chance to avert them i feel it becomes or responsibility to do so. i'm talking about asteroid impacts, the one that got the die natures will not be the -- dinosaurs will not be the last one, and the ice ages. our solar system is full of lots of stuff. each asteroid is a real known object that can impact the worth. this is vastly sped up so don't lose sleep over this. i can tell you other thingses that are more appropriate for you to lose sleep over, although you probably don't need my help right now. in at the long run this will get us, but doesn't
have to. unlike the dinosaurs we have a space program and know how to deal with this problem. there's also the fact that over long runs, climate is not benign, quote, so-called natural climate. we have this illusion everything will be fine if we leave the earth alone. this is an unusual time in our out, an unusual time of relatively warm and stable climate in the last 10,000 years, when we have been building civilizations. that will not last. and we don't want to try to live through another ice age. our civilization would not survive. a lot of other species would not survive. this is not a problem in the next even 10,000 years. we're talking maybe 50,000 years. it's nothing to worry about except for i think we do have to worry about what is the role we envision for ourselves on the planet.
it's not enough to think of the things we want to avoid in the short term. can we picture ourselves having longer term, more constructive role on the planet. now, going into the farther future considerations dish want to wrap up here because i want to get into the conversation phase. but the last part of the book i talk about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and i do that because it's a way of thinking about our future. if you look at the literature on seti, it's below the longevity of civilizations. it turns out the crucial unknown factor in the equation of how many species might be out there to talk to has to do with how long technological civilizations can last. and seti people have been thinking about this since the late 1950s, actually. there's an interesting convergence now where i think
we're realizing that the central problem, the central conundrum that confronts us in the future is the same as the central question of seti, family, is it possible for a technological civilization to device a long-term, sustainable relationship with the planetary biosphere? when we think about the geological time scale, we think about the past. it's interesting to think about the future as well. appropriately there's a lot of question marks on this version because, like, you know, jim morrison once said, the future is uncertain. but people tent to think of the -- talk about the anthropocene as the new epoch. epochs come and go. the fluctuation in earth history which i accompanied by mat extinct, if you go to the left
of the chart, only been four eons. eons are major transitions in plan tear history so there -- planetary history, and there was the impact and steam, nothing can live. the archean, the origin of life and then the protest -- and when we live now which is when life became complex, and we're still this era. i wonder, is this transition that's happening now with cognitive life becoming part of the workings of the planet potentially an eon boundary? not just a fluctuation but a transition in the way life relates to the planet which is what all these other boundaries
were. it gives a way to think about what is happening now which is we as cognitive living creatures in a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the planet, and this is the tomb of wisdom. so, only be an eon if it lasts, becomes a sustainable thing and can only be an eon if it that. so, i want to read you other last passage from the end of the book. talk about the human relationship with climate, the long-term human relationship with climate, which dish draw upon some, the work of one of the scientists here at the museum, named rick potts, who has done some very interesting work on human history and you learn about this in the hall of human origins here.
one thing we learn is that human history has been determined by climate for a long time, and there's something encouraging about this because there's aa way of interpreting this we have evolved as climate change survival machines and continually reinvent ourselves in face of threats that come about through climate change and enlarged our ability to cooperate and invent our way out of situations. one way of looking at where we are now we need to do that one more time and enlarge our circle to become global and use our inventive sunrise social prowess to find a new way to be in relation to the world. so, in this chapter i talk about pessimism and optimism, the power of negative thinking. i warrant against the toxic fatalism and doomsday scenarios that can become so widespread in our assumptions about the future that they can become dangerous
self-fulfilling prophecies. i break down and talk about constructive pessimism verse what i see as destruct tonight or toxic's mitch, and then i talk about optimism. we're the beginning of the earth optimism summit. this is almost the very end of the book, but i won't read you the last two paragraphs because i want to leave it on a cliff hanger for you. right now, the subject of the future is ripe with anxiety. visionses of apocalypse dance in our heads. the topic of anthropocene is doom and gloom, is the earth ruined, mentality. this is understandable but not the whole israel. let's not dwell on these prophecies to the point they become self-fulfilling. propose, on the contrary, the
through an anthropocene should be welcomed. it can be glimpsed. don't fear it. learn to shape it. it is the awareness of ourselves as geological change agents that once propagated and integrated, will provide us with the got a avoid doom and take our future into our own hands. understandably we are uncomfortable with our role as reluctant plan tear plantare engineers. this is our task and we can't afford to wall you. -- wallow. it's time to human up. stand up and face it, get up on our big bipedal frames and look in the mirror and find out we are the eyes of the world. earlier in this chapter i describe pessimism. there are flavors of optimism,
too, that's cosmic optimism stemming from belief that the universe in its vastness bends toward life and intelligence, and that what happens here doesn't really matter anyway because there's plenty more where we come from. there's data-driven and historically based optimism which focuses on positive indicators of which there are many. poverty, malnutrition and infant more fallity are in tree riot -- mortality are in retreat. communication is cheaper and easier. population is plausibly heading towards sustainable. these are all trends toward human freedom and environmental sustainability. there's pragmatic optimism. don't know what is going to happen so why not spread hope and encourage engagement. exponential technological innovation is transform are our world in surprising and
accelerating ways. possibilities that until recently seemed magical are now imminent. rendering the future frightening and exhilarating but above off unpredetectivable. where there is uncertainty there is also hope and choice and room for faith in ourselves. i believe we're just getting started on this planet. nobody knows the odds of our being able to november gait the evolutionary obstacles before us, but there is a real hope and it is this. that our evolving technologyical capacities can allow to us maximize our innate social prowess, equipmenting is to meet the threat wes have created and become something new process. we have done this before. that's it. thank you.
>> nicely done. this is a great book. i really recommend you buy it and read it. i at any time get to the final paragraph before i got here, but i am taking these little minuscule notes when i'm reading the book. it's cool little phrases that are real fun. it's very clear that he had ample time to right this book and i know this because i hired david in my previous job as that museum's first tourator of astro biology, and it was a bold hire because the collection was very small. the study of life outside of earth which is yet to be discovered. >> working on it.
>> and a tough curator because he has no collection and is free to roam but he came to me and said i got this job as the astro biologist of the library of congress and i'm moving to washington, dc. i said that's pretty cool. and then two months alert i followed him to this job. it's been fun to watch his evolution and his book as our time has moved forward, and what find compelling about the book is that it takes all of this global angst we are struggling with and place it in struck to all standpoint and he spreads out the time scale so it's impossibly long, and i love that he puts news middle of time, not the end of time. as people we have a tendency to put us in this apock lippic time
frame where the end of the year is next tuesday, and his job is stretching time out and that time is just going to keep going, we're just on a journey on this planet. and then spatially he parks us in the solar system where there are multiple experiments being a planet, and the neighboring planets have different climates and his work as as astro physict and it diffusions the discussion about climbed when when you talk about the climate change on mars or venus. one thing you said that struck me and actually magnifies, you said the majority of kid bosh today will never see the milky way. which to me is like a really sad statement. it has to do with our urbanization of -- talk about
how the way we live is changing the way we think about our planet. >> yeah. that struck me when i heard that, that statement, and i haven't actually sort of checked the math but it makes sense because we're increasingly urbanized. that trend is accelerating, and light pollution is a problem, although it's interesting there are people now fighting back and trying to deal with light pollution and i fan fantasize tt part of this long-term solution of being healthy is leaving part of the earth unurbannized and maybe that won't always be true. but it is a little strange to think that the -- such a huge part of human experience and it's strange to think of kids
growing up and never seeing the milky way. it's emblematic that we're live ago an different planet than any generation of human beings, and it's an open question whether we are very well equipped for it. one thing learned is how incredibly re-inven tisch the human species and is that give maze lot of hope, that -- gives me a lot of hope. when i sea we've done this before, there some amazing moments in human history where we almost got wiped out. there's genetic bottleneck. smooth have been down to a thousand people or less but we survived that by finding a completely new way to get food and build things and be social. so, maybe we need to do that again.
>> trying to convince people that nature is wonderful and exciting while sitting inside a building, inside a big city, is a -- an interesting dilemma. you're one of the few as astrophysicists who worked in a museum. i. >> love the enter disciplinary nature of it and being an astro biologist at a museum, people ask me about my collection. i have fun joke answers. one is have one in the basement but it's classified and another is i have goofy alien toy, and i realize in a certain sense all the collections are astro biology collections in that astrobiology has been cooled a science with no subject.
that's a valid accusation and you can sea our subject matteres the history of life on earth as well as our growing knowledge of environment elsewhere. so all the geology collections and all the biology and paleontology collections are part of piecing together the evolution so being in a museum i learn so much from the fellow curators and all these fields and the opportunity to interact with audiences. it's a wonderful experience for a scientist. i recommend it. >> you're welcome back any time. you talk about the twisted gift of role in warming. >> yes. so, one of the anymores in this book is that our task is to recognize that we are planet changers and in a way we have reached that point where we
don't have an option to not be planet changers, i don't think. there are possible futures one can device where we drastically reduce our numbers and good back to some very nonintrusive agrarian society, but if you want to say let's reduce human population to a few million, where do you start? that's not realistic, we're going be a species of billions of people for some time to come so we'll be planet changers because we need to feed ourself. we have to manage the planet. so the global warming is the first lesson in that. it's the first thing that is happening that is making us aware of what is going to be our role but wont be the last. that's my past. that's the twisted gift of global warming, waking us up to the reality of ourselves as a
planetary force, and there are a lot of things happening historically it wouldn't wish upon us but there's a silver lining of awakening and when we look back and have solved this problem, which i think we will, we'll say that was the time when we really woke up to our planetary nature. >> like getting punched a little bit. i have this feeling -- i'm curious. when we were been there were three billion people on the planet and now 7.5 billion now and the next 33 years we'll see another 2.5 million people so 10 billion people by 2050. want to know what kind of optimist you are. >> well, in my taxonmy i would
say all of it but a little bit. i have the cosmic optimism where i find comfort in the knowledge that i think what is happening here is not completely unique. and i don't want to get all mystical on you but i fool that the universe has a tendency to coat life -- create life and intelligence and there are wise civilizations out there, and i would be very nice if we could sort of join that party. that's where my other sort of more pragmatic optimism comes in. think because there's a huge range of uncertainty that those would call certain doom are overconfident in their exaggerate healthy and valuable to promote positive visions and i mention positive indicators. there are lot of reasons to
think if we can get over a few narly -- i think we'll be off fossil fuel we'll wish we had not done it as much and we have stopped and there will still be a climate. it will be damaged. and our population it is going to stabilize, all the projections show that. and start to come down. so we are going to get to this other world where we have a better energy system and a stable population. i think that's inevitable, just a question of how much damage we do along the way and i'm very concerned about the 21st 21st century but the optimism comes from a long-term time frame my belief or knowledge that there while be a 22nd and 23rd century and we'll have solved these problems. >> the that kids been today will see the 21st century and
22nd century citizens and it's a stabilizing population and fixing thing energy there and yr off to the races. >> minor problems. >> in the cosmic scheme of things. which is why i like the become. you can stand back and see it's overwhelming and rick to solve problems or forget about committee brain wes have to move fur. i'm curious, just a side question. what are the chances we'll discover some signature of extraterrestrial life in the next five years. >> well -- >> seven. >> i'lling wherele out a little bit. this a -- our can knowledge is
expanding rapidly so if it's a matter of searching more and better there several environments that will become known to us soon. most important point is because of this exoplanet revolution we have discovered that the sky is full of planets. we didn't know that when we were kid is. now we do know it but we don't know -- almost nothing about what the planets are like but we're doling the -- developing the tools and then we can say that one has an oxygen atmosphere, and methane and we'll be looking for biosignatures in the next 20 years. and then we have the plays in our solar system which we have not check closely enough. europa. could be life there. five years, we'd have to get pretty lucky. within our lifetime, assuming we stay healthy, antioxidants and all that stuff.
>> red wine. >> we actually have decent shot at it. >> the first he can sew planet -- >> the first ones were in the late 90s but really weird, the kepler mission which -- about a decade ago which started really saying there's planet, planet- planet. >> so, this whole idea that we can geoengineer our way out of this. the frm and the cdr. >> eeow engineering is a -- geoengineering is a term. that makes us shoeder and it should. it's a daunting concept that we think we know enough to fix the planet by engineering a solution. have a somewhat different take on it. while i talk about these -- so
what kirk just mentioned, radiation management is the idea would we fix climb change by squirting stuff into the atmosphere, and simulating what haves after a volcanic eruption and there's stuff in the stratosphere, and this carbon capture, these things work on paper but in my view it's dangerous for us to tinker to that extent when we don't understand the system well enough. the system is really come mex, and we're still at a point where there's a lot of unknown unknowns, and so neither of those would work to the extent that we can just say, well, then we don't have to worry about our co2 emissions. we don't in the any quick fix
that is safe so that we can't get out of that problem of having to change our energy supply. but my different take on geoengineering is in the long run i see it as an obligation to learn how to engineer this planet, to transition to the intentional kinds ofplane plantare changes. i mentioned the ozone, that's a form of geoengineering to correct a problem but even -- i would say when we plant trees to try to help co2, that's very benign but it's geoengineering in the sense it's a conscious intervention in the planet. so to me it's a spectrum from plant trees to doing something really obviously intrusive like stopping an as steroid that's going to hit which i think would not be a bad thing of it's all spectrum of different kinds of ways of thinking of ourselves as consciously intervening in the planet and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves and try something we don't understand
the consequences i think we're obligated to learn more about the explant how to handle our role on it in the long run that will mean more intrusive geoengineering. >> you use the phrase moving spare systems around the solar system and device ways to redirect the things spinning around. >> there's a lot of junk out there and already thing we know ways to change or orbits. if an asteroid is heading towards earth you don't want to send bruce willis up there with a nuke to blow it up because then you have a a radio active -- you can just give it a nudge with a heavy object but --
just push it a little bit so it slightly misses the earth. that's something i think, given time, we will bible to do. the good thing.asteroids we can see them coming years, probably decades in advance. >> in denver in 1999 or something like that, study what happened to life on earth when the asteroid that killed the dinosaur struck. he was the bullet and i was the target. given a recent development on the korean peninsula, i'm curious about your thoughts of nuclear winter. >> well, i'm scared of nuclear winter. i was going to use can expletive but i'm square. when i mixed don't lose sleep over asteroids there are other things to lose sleep over, think that nuclear winter is something
that is not always included in the calculus that decision mostly cloudiers think when they think about weather -- these things are not weapons. they're suicide machines and it's the case if you explode a few of them anywhere in the world, enough of them -- it doesn't take that much. a small scale exchange -- you would cause a drastic climate change around the planet. the knowledge came out of studying the planet mars. the scientists that worked on the theory of nuclear winter, carl sagan, were studying dust storms on mars, and they said, this is weird, when you fill up a whole planet's atmosphere with party particles, is there anything that can happen like that on earth? and they said what could cause
it's the thing that keeps me awake at night are the unintended consequences of our technology that we've developed that we haven't fully -- smack i read about these hiroshima who are working with the survivors and their individual person-to-person context where there are people who are taking the role where they assigned themselves to an individual who survived that and talk to them and learn everything they know about it to the best they can to carry on the memory. it was very hearty description of people that are trying to keep them alive because it's so important that we not forget it. >> about the last survivors with the direct memory passing into the state the museums which are great places and it's the role the museum to own time. it would be highly i need to
mention the exhibit called the time that we've been building the last seven years and it opened upstairs and 779 days. [laughter] on june 8th 2019. that time will pass in a flash, i guarantee you. it's a very cool exhibit because of the entire history of life on earth and starts the formation of the earth. it comes up to and includes the recent ice age and evolution of humans and goes into the future. and actually takes you some distance and you can look back from the future at the full art of life on our planet and see yourself as a human as part of that story. most historic exhibits distance you as the mammoth for the dinosaur are long dead and are not related to me but our goal is to park people in the middle of that story where they belong for everything we do is functioning.
that 779 days, june 8th 2019. >> what time? back still be a little party for us. dori. >> the role of museums is to help deal with time. were so fast-paced and worried about the future. the idea that we worry about 33 years from now or 70 years from now doesn't really click with people and i think that's one of the things. have you found tools to help people make time traveler? >> it's one of our biggest challenges is to lose that allusion that all we need to care about is what's happening right now when were alive and create a sense of being embedded in that timestream and related
to ancestors and descendents and involved in projects with them. i don't know if i have any magical tools, storytelling is really important. the reality of what we've learned about our existence connects us with his long-term history and extension a long-term future. communicating is my role as a scientist is to try to communicate what i know and what my colleagues and i have learned and how that relates to this project of trying to build a more sustained and healthy presence here. i do think it's funny that we talk and tell the story of time with this at the end -- i came to one of these evenings with earlier this year, late last year with ed and it was great.
he's such a good speaker in his book i contained multitudes is so good. we did this thing that i've done before where he walked across the street and said this will stage is the history of the earth and here's 1 billion is 2 billion and the very end of the stage was now. i've done the same thing on a backboard with students and i thought i'm in a do that and here's now in the middle. because the rest of the stages the future. cal has a cosmic calendar where they universe beginning was january and now it's december 301st. what about tomorrow? we have to be careful that we don't define time is happening in the past. >> apocalypse is coming. i grew up in a religious family and we had people who were
dentists and staff who knew the end of the world was going to happen in the next three-four years. they made financial decisions based on that. that fatalism is not useful in this time. we need to be optimistic about a long future. to that end, this is my last question and will move on to audience questions this week if you want to ask a question, get behind the microphone. how do you want people to feel after they have read your book? >> i want people to feel hopef hopeful, engaged, untrained -- i also want them to feel entertained. i wanted to be a worthwhile experience. provoked, to think about things in any way. to me the hopeful part is important because i feel like were getting pummeled with these
messages now that can suck hope out of us and that's actually not productive and maybe not even true. yeah, i would say hopeful. hopeful, engaged and provoked. >> do you want them to do anything. >> yes, i want them to transform human consciousness. [laughter] >> what you think about the march for science perspective. >> i'm excited about it. it's a little puzzling. i was taught that science is value neutral and that was something i heard when i was a kid studying science. what's great about science is that it's completely objective and a scientist you're not married to or test any goal or result you're just interrogating
nature and it's the best. there was a place for science could remove itself and now we find ourselves in a world where science is relevant to these questions of climate change, policy and the nature of objective facts and objective truth is under attack. i think to put science in strange territory. i am intrigued and i'm psyched. i'm psyched to see who comes in what they do and what the science say. personally, i want to go there and make it known that i'm concerned and there is an attack on science going on. it's a strange thing to experience but i feel like i'm inspired by the fact that people want to respond to that. >> so, you have questions. at the microphones. is it on? is it turned on?
there might be a stretch. beautiful. >> thank you for your talk in your wonderful book. i thank you achieved a lot of the goals you mentioned. you also touched on specifically my question which is it does seem very accessible to people of all opinions and political affiliations. just some thoughts perhaps on we can actually get back to a place where we can agree on things like facts and where we should go from here, particularly, polity attend policy decisions made at nasa. >> how can we find agreement on some of these are basic things we need to find agreement on when we have this polarized set of reactions? it's very difficult and very, very challenging.
we are so entrenched and it's very easy to think the other people are idiots. they don't think i think. even though, they are. [laughter] that doesn't get us very far. one way is to try to change the context of the conversation. one thing i've been thinking about, for instance, is i'm going to try to stop using climate denial is. i think it actually an accurate to sip discussion in a certain way of people call themselves skeptics but we don't like that term either because it seems like not been skeptical. the word denial list is a pretty intense word because of comparing them implicitly to holocaust deniers. there is a certain truth to that
because denier of history and science, you can't make up your own history in your own science. but, untrained the problem is if you use that phrase that there are some people who will listen to it when you say next. i don't believe everyone does climate science is evil or greedy. i think some of them are consuming other information than the information i believe is correct. so, i would love i'm searching for ways to create with other people don't think what i think. one way -- i had success in talking about other planets. people think nasa is cool, even those who don't leave in climate change but believe in place exploration.
there's a credibility there i say these models work not just birth but for venus and mars. you take it out of the context and approach it obliquely and that's one way to do it. obviously, i don't have the magic bullet here or i'd be firing it. the magic seed, i do think listening is very important and being conscious of the way we say things that were not insulting and turning off people from the conversation. >> question over here. >> thank you for talking with us tonight. i comment any question. carl sagan's point about the i didn't take it as fatalistic but i thought of it as a comparison of human history the great expanse of history in general. my question is as an astro
biologist what you think about our responsibility for the diversity of species? i know you talked about us being a potential epic change and i've heard the description in the great extinction that is going on. thoughts on that. >> great question. first of all on your comment, i agree with you completely about the cosmic calendar. it's a great comparison. i didn't mean to disparage that at all. i grew up on that stuff. he did an amazing service by explaining to the masses about how to think about time. it's wonderful but it's more a footnote on my reaction that i think that's weird for december 301st what does that imply? i love the cosmic calendar. i love carl sagan. the question about species in our responsibility is an
interesting one because it's clear that the short-term obligation is to stop the mass extinction that we are burning. we have not yet caused the six massive extinctions, there's five and it goes up and down but there's five big spikes that we might be causing one of which was the dinosaur hit, 65 million years ago. we might cause the next one if we continue at our project rates. we have to stop that. thinking again, longer term, what are the implications after we stopped at here something we haven't thought through: what do we do about extinction after that arguably, let's say we get through this and the transition were talking about, 22nd century, we stabilize our preparation and changed our energy, were no longer causing a
massive extinctions but what's the right rate of extinction it were in control do we say it should be zero? that the massive intervention in a fact of life that we been here for billions of years. if we don't see a zero then goes respect you, you, you. [laughter] the long run once we get over immediate obligations are clear, ethically, in the longer run it raises interesting questions about our role. >> that's a big 22nd century dilemma. >> i have a million questions but i'm stupidly excited because back in 2005 i read lonely planet and i went back to school for science. i wanted to ask you questions forever. we started the next planets and hot jupiter's we didn't expect and we see systems and we say that's great now there's a new processes that their gravatar gravitationally locked and all
the stuff that we can look at these things with spectroscope's and say we see this communal signature but if you look back in our past you would have seen that signature at the time before they built up and is there some kind of chemical signature that because you have a small sample size and a vast universe were to nearly focused on our biology that we won't recognize that chemical signature. >> thank you so much for sharing that you read lonely planets and made you want to study science. i love hearing that. it's the type of thing that makes writing these things with it. so, thank you. about your question, yeah.
our search for bio signatures, the signature is inherently biased in many ways. we don't really know anything about life in the universe and we have one example of a biosphere. as by his cosmic biodiversity we can't draw conditions from one sample. as a collector and paleontologist. [inaudible] we have to be careful in our assumptions and you're right. when we look for oxygen and then we imagine there's a planet like earth it's going to have oxygen and it's worth remembering that there was a long time may be a couple billion years of earth's evolution where earth had a complex biosphere but didn't have oxygen in the atmosphere. our search for bio signatures is based on two gases. another way to approach it but i
think we also will approach it is more broadly search for anomalous atmospheric signatures for things that seem to be out of equilibrium that maybe not what we predicted. it may not be oxygen but maybe something else. if there's suspiciously large amounts of gases that don't seem to be likely produced by any geological process that doesn't prove it but makes us go a half. let's pay attention to this planet and see what else we can observe. >> cool. thanks. >> i have a comment that i hope you can respond to. it seems that behind a lot of what you said tonight is the idea that we are all in this together to quote bruce springsteen if nobody wins, unless everyone wins. there is a concept of team humanity that we all share. that idea is actually recent
historical and it's far from universal today. it's possible that there are people who don't think in terms of team vanity but instead think in terms of this revival of team trump for a name out of the hat. >> random, no less. >> so, it seems to me that it's not just a question of consciousness but the idea that were all in it together and i share which is a question of convincing and it's not perfect. he said it's ethical but it needs to be -- people need to be convinced, carefully taught. >> absolutely. you've identified one of the really tricky problems here. it's not enough to have a solution that you and i can
agree is a great solution that you and i and the people in this room might all come up with a plan that really would solve global warming and solve some of these other problems. in fact, i think there are such solutions that exist but that's not enough. how are we possibly going to get global buy-in when our world is so fragmented and when were living to this moment seemingly of resurgent nationalism it's hard to tell whether that's a lit or the last gasp of some old worldview. i, being a perennial optimist, feel as if the last gasp of an old worldview. i see kids growing up with a much more global perspective, not just here, but in other countries as well. there being more connected, seeing themselves as global citizens.
the transformation will come overnight but it also doesn't have to be perfect. it just has to be enough. i reminded there's some documentary i saw about the 60s when they had abbie hoffman talking about when they surrounded the pentagon and try to levitate it and all that and he made the point that they basically the antiwar movement ultimately one. but he said we were never the majority. we were just very visible and someone said how many of their were you? he smiled at the camera and said enough. i think it's a matter -- it doesn't necessarily mean we have to become global ultras as much as i'd love it happened. people have to connect the dots
and you can look at as it is a selfishness or enlightened self-interest that most people don't want to destroy the world that they and their children are going to live in. once they have those connections become clear to them and you can see even now the powerful players in the world are starting to realize they need to get in line. i'm encouraged by the chinese that they are funding alternative energy and canceling call plans not because they become global ultras but because you can't breathe in beijing anymore. reality does have a way of biting you in the behind if you ignore it long enough. same thing in this country there are coalitions of corporations and business people and even a coalition, bipartisan of not at the highest levels of our government right now but at
other levels, state, local and even some federal people realizing, hey, we need to deal with this and it won't be good for business if we trashed the global climate. the alignment of wider self interest with the need to destroy the world we live in is something that will come around as these connections between our choices in the global environment becomes more apparent. if you wait long enough, to become apparent the hard way. our task, for those of us thinking and teaching now, is to try to make it as much as possible the easy way through foresight not to tragedy. humans have a way of learning by one and others by the other. it's going to be some commendation of the two. >> some thing to think about a lot and working in a museum where museums are basically
curiosity factors that are run by the creation of new knowledge to the discovery and the communication of that knowledge through excitement and beauty. that's what we do. that's why people perceive us as kids places because kids have a natural curiosity to come here. in the back rooms, there are hundreds of scientists doing amazing things. just last year a scientist described 384 new species and five new languages. it's happening in this discovery of new knowledge that the basic on covering of things we didn't know which was what science is. somehow it seems to me that the urgency of the present time is distracting us from the joy of discovery. and discovery itself holds probably the solutions that we are looking for in so many amazing discoveries were unexpected and the fruits of those discoveries were used in retrospect and i know that you
as a scientist breathe and speak and i'm curious if it occurs to you more effective ways to describe the value of simple curiosity and the value of simple discovery as opposed to this letter solve a problem kind of thinking that we are involved in now. >> yeah, i'm intrigued by that point you made where were distracting from the joy of discovery by the sense of urgency. we really do need both. there is urgency and scientist feel rightly obviated to try to be part of the solution in different ways but science also does drive in an environment and with an attitude of curiosity for the sake. >> learning things for the sake of curiosity.
i like to make the connections, show, tell stories about how many curiosity driven projects resulted in very practical knowledge. some stories that people don't know and i mentioned the ozone layer. that's a cool one. people were studying the atmosphere because they wanted to know what the answer of venus would like and there was a puzzle. there ought to be -- we know the co2 is being broken up by sunlight so there ought to be oxygen coming off. there isn't and where is it? some other scientist said let's do experiments and i think chlorine destroys oxygen so they took the spectrum and said there's chlorine there and that was happening. then other scientists -- i was just scientists who read the paper and said wow, with this apply to earth's upper atmosphere and if they hadn't been curious about this other problem it would've taken us longer to discover the ozone and
we would've been in more trouble. i know a lot of examples like that where we do our best science a lot of times are just trying to figure stuff out. somehow we have to come i think it's healthy to support science that are simply driven by wanting to know and not being forced to justify what they're doing by saying here's this immediate societal benefit and here's what i'm going to invent if you give me this funding. it should be enough to say here's an interesting problem that no one resolved. >> here is the last question. >> i wanted to ask you to expand slightly -- i love your effort to approach the denial list crowd or whatever in a different manner or way. i thought it would be helpful
that you started out talking about the comparison with mars in venus, the earth and the models was a good way to do that. i'm wondering if you would just share that with us and what's the 92nd version. that's all you have to talk to trump, 90 seconds. >> yes, that would be a hard pitch to make. i think i'd be fired. >> you only have 90 seconds. [laughter] >> the fact is you could ask how do we know that our climate models work, they're just modeled in computers. what do they have to do with the real world the fact is we went to venus remeasured the service temperature, we found it was 90. these guys did a climate model using the same physics that we use to predict future climate on
earth and from first principles they said that if it's all co2 and will be 900 degrees. there's a lot of examples of this. it shows by stretching our ability to model places that we had never been before and accurately predict what we were fine. it verifies that we actually know what we are doing, the physics is real and the modeling is real. by presenting it that way we can take it out of the context where people already had their defenses up because they think they're being sold a political argument. >> forty-three seconds. [applause] what will happen next is that david will sprint off the stage even before you have a chance to jump up and greet him and rushed to a table in the hallway where he will be selling and assigning books and you should buy at least four-five copies and give them to your friends and family. please, keep your eyes open for future events. one is coming up soon.
it's a fun event and i enjoy doing these things. thank you for taking the time to join us and join me in thanking david grinspoon. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> every weekend but tv offers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. keep watching for more here on c-span two. watch any of our past programs online at tv .org